Watch videos of Lizzie performing here
A WOMAN who graduated from the UK’s first comedy degree course is using her craft as a unique way of helping drug and alcohol addicts to heal.
With the Addictive Comedy group, Lizzie Allan has been putting on special alcohol-free events on both sides of the Atlantic enabling people to use stand-up as a way of talking openly about their addictions and life in recovery – without fear of being heckled by the rowdy stag parties which attend many comedy nights.
Lizzie, one of the first students to graduate from the University of Salford’s Comedy Writing and Performance course, began putting on the nights at Manchester’s Nexus Art Café while working for Preston-based addiction charity Red Rose Recovery after leaving university.
She used her knowledge of comedy to provide short training courses for people in recovery from addiction problems, who then went on to perform at the events.
Lizzie said: “The events are supported by a strong recovery community giving the atmosphere a unified vibe. If you are new to recovery and you come to one of our events you realise that the fun doesn’t stop just because you’re clean and sober. We smash stigma.”
Now, after having moved to Vancouver to write new material for her own stand-up routines, she has begun putting on similar nights in the Canadian city.
They have proved so popular that the last two shows have sold out, they have raised $6,000 for a community rehab centre, and Lizzie is hoping to bring the event to a 1,000-seater venue next year.
She said: “Comedy can have a huge effect on people. I’ve been working with a woman who was previously very meek, I’ve helped her put her experiences into stand-up and she’s become a different person – she’s confident and happy and continues to work with us.
“Laughter is healing, and when everyone in the room is laughing together there’s an energy you can’t replicate – it’s completely different from a lot of comedy nights where you have to impress a hostile crowd. It’s a safe environment because it’s a community supporting each other.
“Comedy also allows people to open up and talk about things they might not do in other settings. I’ve looked but not found anyone else doing anything like it.”
These issues are close to Lizzie’s heart as the comedian had been sectioned under the Mental Health Act and struggled with cannabis addiction before coming to the University of Salford in 2011.
She said: “Coming to Salford and learning about what I was able to do, and meeting other comedians like Jason Manford and Peter Kay who came in to talk to us – these were really inspirational experiences.
“It enabled me to learn a lot about myself and what I was capable of, and I couldn’t have done what I’m doing now without that course.”
Lisa Moore, comedy lecturer at the University of Salford, said: “Lizzie is breaking new ground in this ever expanding field, and she has innovative ideas together with a passionate desire to use comedy to enable others to deal with issues around mental health.”